Using Technology for Better Legal Outcomes

26 August 2021
Matthew Bode, Partner, Brisbane

“Computers are going to take over certain legal tasks—the practice of law will focus more on advice.” (Ricardo Anzaldua)

For lawyers, it is difficult enough to keep up to date with volumes of legislative changes let alone monitor the technological solutions that help us do our jobs better.

However, technology aids for lawyers have transitioned from generic applications to targeted solutions that maximise the utility of sheer processing power. Deployed well, some of these developments have the potential to revolutionise legal practice, even before we consider the possible uses of artificial intelligence.

This article summarises an hour-long discussion between a panel of experts who regularly apply a variety of innovative lawtech solutions. It demonstrates how public and private sector lawyers can harness technology, both proactively and reactively, to improve compliance, decision-making and enforcement.

You can view the full panel discussion on demand here: Using Technology for Better Legal Outcomes

Structuring complex workflows

The complexity and volume of regulations is increasing. This has driven a rise in end to end legal operations platforms to assist in-house lawyers to manage their workflows e.g., where they receive a time sensitive request for information under a statutory regime such as the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth).

These next generation platforms are more complex than the traditional Excel spreadsheet which has been reduced into computer format. They combine machine learning capability with no-code automation to deliver highly complex, customised workflows and solutions for in-house legal teams and law firms. Key features of these platforms include: logic-based workflows; multiple levels of approvals based on business logic; document automation capabilities; plug-in architecture enabling new functionality and systems integrations; and live business reporting.

Identifying and reviewing data

Most litigators would have heard of Technology Assisted Review (TAR), a tool used in e-discovery. TAR uses a senior reviewer to code a small ‘seed set’ of documents and then uses software algorithms to propagate predictive coding over the remaining data set based on their likeness to the seed set. After that exercise, which can be conducted efficiently over thousands of documents, statistical validation and other testing is conducted to ensure the accuracy of the data set returned for features including relevance and privilege.

While it is common practice for the data set identified by TAR as relevant to then be human reviewed prior to production, that is not always the case. Some financial institutions, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom, are more comfortable with TAR and elect to produce the data set returned by TAR without human review on a cost/benefit analysis.

TAR is increasingly used in a litigious context with its use supported by Australian courts[1] which are following the international trend. ASIC too, along with other global regulators, is a long time public proponent of TAR, having adopted the tool itself.[2] Former ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft said in March 2017:

“We are tailoring machine learning software for use in investigations…using algorithms for both structured and unstructured data. It allows us to visually map relationships of persons and entities and create time chronologies…We are expanding our capabilities in this area [e-discovery and TAR]…to make the identification of relevant evidentiary materials more efficient.[3]

TAR may not always be appropriate, particularly for smaller, idiosyncratic or highly time-sensitive reviews. However, its reliability, official endorsement and efficiency gains when compared to human review – even after the traditional keyword searches and other filters are applied – means that its’ use should always be considered by regulators or litigants upon receiving an information request.

Complying with regulations

This year has been characterised by a tidal wave of reform in the financial services regulatory space. To keep up, organisations are increasingly and necessarily turning to technology – with varying outcomes.

RegTech applications, for example, have recently been adopted by a number of financial services institutions across the country to assess and monitor their compliance with regimes and statutory frameworks, including the Financial Accountability Regime (FAR), the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, Australian Consumer Law, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing laws, Privacy law and Product Design & Distribution requirements. These regimes and frameworks place corporate and personal liability on organisations for failing to report various issues.

By streamlining the information collation, assessment and reporting process of potential regulatory incidents into one online platform, RegTech ensures the defensible, timely and cost-effective compliance by financial service institutions with their regime and statutory requirements.

Other technology has also been developed to meet the rising regulatory demand, including intuitive anti-money laundering and fraud detection software. Importantly, it is regulators and not just the private sector who are seeking to utilise this technology. ASIC, for example have invested in AI that can scan marketing proposals for potential misleading and deceptive conduct to better regulate the market.

Key takeaway

Adopting technology to practice law differently can assist legal counsel in meeting increasing demands from a timing, cost and accuracy perspective. It will help them to focus on their core task – giving strategic legal advice. Indeed, given the demands placed on in-house counsel in the current legal environment, adopting technology in one form or another is arguably now an obligation rather than an option.

*The panel of experts included Stan Gallo, Forensic Services Partner at BDO in Brisbane and Sasha Kirk, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Lawcadia.

Stan Gallo is a highly regarded risk specialist who specialises in fraud, misconduct and compliance related matters. For further information on the forensic risk management and advisory services offered by Stan and BDO, see here

Lawcadia is an Australian headquartered legal technology company that offers a cloud-based platform used by legal teams for matter management, legal intake and triage and legal spend management. For further information on Lawcadia, see here.

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Authored by:
Meghann Kennedy, Graduate


[1]   McConnell Dowell Constructors (Aust.) Pty Ltd v Santam Ltd & Ors (No.1) [2016] VSC 734 [18]-[31]

[2]  Report 476, ASIC enforcement outcomes: July to December 2015 (March 2016), [29]

[3]   Medcraft G, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Impact on financial services and markets’ (20 March 2017), ASIC Annual Forum 2017 (Hilton, Sydney)

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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